Am I the only one that's been intrigued by the Pei Wei billboards in town advertising their new Vietnamese Caramel Chicken? However given that I am the only one who doesn't care for Pei Wei restaurants that much except for their awesome, awesome chicken wraps ( I HEART THOSE CHICKEN WRAPS!), I thought I would give this dish a try at home first because I stumbled across the recipe in Food and Wine magazine.
I stumbled across two recipes for Caramel Chicken in Food & Wine magazine. Which begs the question, was it the editor's off day? The recipes were somewhat similar, so I decided to mish-mash the two and picked and chose what tickled my fancy.
And we have a winner - I loved this dish. The salty fish sauce was perfectly offset by the sweet caramel sauce resulting in neither a too-sweet nor too-salty dish. Because trust me, I would never be a fan of chicken in sugar or chicken in fish sauce, the latter which would have the aroma of the trap-door to hell.
The folks loved the dish. The hub loved the dish. Crikey, the MIL actually complimented me on the dish. Houston, we have a WINNER! I do have to mention that the kids ran away because I went a little overboard with the chilli (duly noted below). I'll just have to work on that little fault of mine.
Of course, the fact that Joanne is spotlighting Vietnamese cuisine at Regional Recipes was another incentive to try this dish too.
And why do I have those tiny clay pots featuring in the pictures. This dish is traditionally made in a clay pot, so if you are lucky enough to own one, do give it a whirl in that.
Vietnamese Caramel Ginger Chicken (adapted from two recipes in Food & Wine magazine - "Clay Pot Ginger Chicken" by Chef Mai Pham and "Vietnamese Lemongrass Chicken with Caramel Sauce" by Joyce Jue)
3 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup hot water
3 Tbsp vegetable oil (divided use)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp cornstarch
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, visible fat removed and cubed
3 Tbsp lemongrass stalks, chopped (I used jarred lemongrass stalks)
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, (1 Tbsp crushed and 1 Tbsp cut in slivers)
1 tsp red chilli flakes (this made the dish very hot! Adjust as you see fit)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder
1/4 tsp salt (omit if fish sauce is salty)
2 scallions, chopped
A few springs of cilantro for garnishing
1. In heavy based pan, heat sugar on medium heat till it starts to turn amber and caramelizes, make sure all sugar has dissolved by swirling the pan. Remove from heat, .
3. Be very CAREFUL with next step, add the hot water a bit at a time, it will cause the caramel to splutter. After all the water is added, return the pan to heat if there are clumps of caramel that did not dissolve and boil until there is a caramel syrup with no lumps. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice and reserve.
4. In a bowl, mix 2 Tbsp of fish sauce, cornstarch, black pepper and the chicken. Stir to coat.
5. In a wok or clay pot, heat 2 Tbsp of oil until smoking and add lemongrass, onion, garlic and the crushed ginger. Stir-fry until the garlic and onions are golden. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp of oil.
6. Add the chicken mixture and cayenne pepper and stir-fry until the chicken turns white.